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Prime Minister and Communities Secretary visit the Employment Academy

22 December 2016

Prime Minister Theresa May and Communities Secretary Sajid Javid visited the Thames Reach Employment Academy in Camberwell yesterday, to meet the formerly homeless people using the services there and the staff that support them.

It formed part of an announcement on £50m of government funding for homelessness including £20m going into initiatives across the capital.

The funding will be used in new homelessness prevention schemes and new approaches to help people sleeping rough.

The Employment Academy, owned and managed by Thames Reach, is a dedicated multi-agency service backed by Southwark and Lambeth local authorities. The two boroughs are both set to receive funding to pilot new ways of preventing homelessness and rough sleeping in London.

The Prime Minister and Communities Secretary met Jeremy Swain, Chief Executive of Thames Reach, and spoke to staff and service users. The academy helps people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness to find employment by offering a range of services including IT, literacy and numeracy classes, practical courses in painting and decorating and direct contact with employers for people ready to move into work.

Jeremy Swain, Thames Reach Chief Executive, said: “We were delighted to host this visit, which provided a wonderful opportunity for the homeless people who use our services to talk directly with the Prime Minister and Communities Secretary about their experiences and aspirations.

“We know that improving skills and finding work is one of the most effective ways of escaping homelessness for good, and I am proud that 60 of my very able colleagues at Thames Reach are former homeless people and tremendous role models.

“The homelessness prevention funding is extremely welcome and provides a platform for the renewal of our collective efforts to end the scourge of rough sleeping in this country.”

Denise Vilanou, a Thames Reach support worker, said: “It was delightful to meet the prime minister at the Employment Academy and see her giving up her time to meet people who were once homeless, but had been helped to find work and get their lives back on track.

“Today she met many people who had moved from using services to finding work in the homelessness sector, where they provide much needed support to others.”

Prime Minister Theresa May said:

“In the run up to Christmas, images of soup kitchens and hostels remind us of the vital lifeline provided by charities and local services to those facing a night on the streets.

“But today I have witnessed a different kind of support, one which seeks to stop people ending up on the street altogether by providing assistance to address their most immediate needs and crucially giving them the skills and opportunities which can help them build a more secure future for themselves.

“Services like those I have seen today are vital in helping everybody realise their potential, no matter what their personal circumstances as we create a country that truly works for everyone."

Find out more about Thames Reach’s Christmas Campaign and support Thames Reach’s work with rough sleepers, here.

Peter Cheasman with prime minister
Prime Minister Theresa May chatting with Peter, who uses the services at the Employment Academy.